Yes, it has been too long!

My apologies to those faithful readers who have been following this project. There has been so much activity over the past 6 months that I never seemed to be able to find the time to write. However, all of this activity has produced some great content!!

So what have we been up to?

1. We've hired a principal! Her name is Shirley Grover. We will be posting an article about her very soon that recently appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Click here to view it directly off the Inquirer website.

2. The building looks like a building! Construction is moving along nicely. We hope to be almost 85% enclosed by the end of the month. If everyone visiting this website could think warm thoughts, I would greatly appreciate it!

3. We held a School of the Future World Summit in July! Over 220 educators from 30 countries attended this 3 day gathering. Education leaders around the world debated and discussed necessary actions for improvement. We will be posting a summary report from this event in a week or so. Check back at

4. We've attended numerous national and international conferences sharing our vision and process for this school. The visibility of the project is increasing (11.5M media impressions to date!). With such visibility, the pressure to succeed is even greater. To check out recent articles on the project visit

5. We are a couple of weeks away from posting new resources from the project including the Technical Vision and Scope Document, a Discovery Brief on the hiring process used to identify and select Shirley Grover and the School of the Future Competency Wheel. Each of these resources will be able to help all of you meet your educational goals.

6. We are about to host our Curriculum Summit! This internal planning meeting will be used to identify curriculum, scheduling, and professional development for students and staff needs of the school. Look for some great insights in January based on this work.

7. With the new principal on board, we encourage you to contact! Shirley will be monitoring this email address and would love to engage with educators from around the world.


As a final note, below is the Microsoft update that I presented to the School Reform Commission last week. It provides an overall status of the partnership and thanks everyone for the tremendous amount of work that has been done to date.

We promise to writie again sooner!

Keep visiting...




To:   Members of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission

Date: October 19, 2005

From: Mary Cullinane, Microsoft Corporation


Chairman Nevels, members of the School Reform Commission, Mr. Vallas and Dr. Thornton. On behalf of Microsoft Corporation I would like to thank you for this opportunity to provide an update on the School of the Future project from our perspective.


As you know, approximately 2 years ago, the School District of Philadelphia and Microsoft Corporation entered into an historic collaborative effort to build what is now being referred to as, the School of the Future. This collaboration was driven by a desire of both parties to demonstrate what is truly possible in urban education. Our intent, simple… Create an organization where learning is continuous, relevant and adaptive and do so in a way that can be replicated not only throughout the district of Philadelphia, but worldwide.


So for the past two years we have been working together to achieve these goals. We have made thoughtful and purposeful decisions along the way that will have significant impact on this story. The fact that this High School is a neighborhood high school, where approximately 75% of the students will come from West Philadelphia demonstrates our collective desire to meet the needs of local community members. The fact that this high school is not a special admit institution, demonstrates our belief that all children can succeed when placed in an environment that calls us all to be better. The fact that this High School is being funded by the School District of Philadelphia provides evidence that this can be done by others battling many of the same challenges being faced here. And that fact that to date, this story has produced 11.5 million media impressions demonstrates the opportunity and responsibility at hand to deliver on these promises and bring global recognition to the hard work being done here in Philadelphia. Members of the School Reform Commission, you should, as I know you are, be very proud of the efforts of people like Paul Vallas, Dr. Thornton, Ellen Savitz, Project Manger, Charles Allen, Natalye Paquin, Tomas Hanna, and numerous members of the IT Department who in our opinion have demonstrated what’s best about education and that is the passion of those who want to make a difference.


Please know that this collaborative effort has gone beyond Microsoft’s traditional engagement model. To date we have provided the School District of Philadelphia with training on strategic planning and organizational scorecard development. We have conducted trainings on behavioral interviewing and Microsoft hiring principles. This training led to the selection of the principal for the School of the Future and its practice is being reviewed for use throughout the district. We have provided regional superintendents with leadership training at our corporate offices. We have supported the Chief Academic officers’ cabinet retreat with facilitation and training resources. And we have supported Mr. Vallas and Dr. Thornton with additional input regarding business practice and planning development. While non-traditional in approach, we believe these activities demonstrate the true spirit of this relationship as well as our commitment to the district.


To say however that the past two years have been without challenge would not be accurate. As the person responsible for Microsoft’s investment and activities relating to this project, I have a new appreciation for the political process. I have learned more than I ever thought possible with regard to the construction business and I have a greater appreciation for the role of bureaucracy in our political and education systems. Despite these challenges, as Chairman Nevels and I have stated to each other many times, failure is unacceptable and is not an option.


We are now less than one year away. We are entering into the most critical phase of this project. Unfortunately, it is easy for organizations to become bored with initiatives. By definition they are seen to be temporary and, historically, focus tends to be lost. I ask that as leaders of the School District of Philadelphia you remain steadfast now more than ever. I ask that we don’t shy away from the hard work that needs to be done and I ask that we remain committed to an open and honest dialogue.


To date, our innovations have focused on 5 key areas, Instructional Innovation, Building Design, Business Management, Community Engagement and IT Infrastructure. As a corporation, we strongly believe that all efforts must be measurable, tracked, reported and revised. It is this process that we have brought to the School of the Future project and we believe is critical in demonstrating our success. Microsoft will be funding a formal evaluation program once the school is opened. This evaluation program will provide documented learnings and measurements in the areas of student achievement, professional and community engagement, customer satisfaction and organizational efficiency. The data collected will support the district in future decision making and strategic planning.


Currently there is significant work being done on developing the IT Infrastructure for this school. The District is being asked to make a strategic investment that will allow your current IT environment to be updated and upgraded. This activity will permit the new software we are developing to integrate with current systems being utilize within the district’s IT architecture. Please know that we have taken significant measures to insure that all innovation being developed for this school can be leveraged throughout the district. Each and every technical attribute of the School of the Future is being built in a way so that all schools can benefit from the innovation. At the decision and discretion of the School District, current and future schools will be able to plug in to the functionality found within the School of the Future. We strongly urge the district to leverage this IT investment.


The United States Army Corp of Engineers has a motto embedded within their seal… it is the French word, “essayons”, translated to mean… “Let us try”.


We echo that sentiment. Together, let us be the ones who do not turn our back on innovation in urban education. Let us be ones who do the hard work that needs to be done. Let us be the ones that are willing to demonstrate what needs to be the norm in urban education, not the extraordinary.


Thank you for all your organization has done these past two years and will continue to do in order for this endeavor to be as successful as it can be. We are honored to be associated with the School District of Philadelphia and we applaud your leadership and vision.